Topic: "Ferengi or Ferangi?" (3)
Frodo has read nearly all of the collected writings of James Michener. Geology, history, romance, mystery, adventure, intrigue, all in some of the most remote locales on planet Earth, and beyond ("Space" took the reader into the cellestial. The exception being "Texas," which Frodo never finished, reflecting the fact that no one is capable of a home run every time at bat. Frodo has just finished what will long prove to be the most provocative of his books, "Caravans." He found that his interest in this particular book is not unshared.
"Caravans" is set in Afghanistan in 1946. In brief, the story centers about a 20-something from the US State Department who is dispatched to locate a young debutante from the Main Line of Philadelphia and Bryn Mawr who has "run away" with an Afghani Engineering student to this unknown land. Given the sequence of historical events since 1946, and the importance of Afghanistan in today's world, Frodo was excited by a Micheneresque preview of modern-day political happenings. Michener wrote the book 17 years after the setting of the book, and he spent considerable effort translating the world as it existed at that time. Michener died 10 years ago, and felt, even then, that he would like to again return to this the place he felt to be the most interesting destination on our small blue planet.
Michener blew it. In 1963 Michener felt that there would be a continuing struggle for Afghanistan between the United States and the Soviet Union. By his death in 1997. he obviously was aware that his less-than prescient model of the modern world had a few holes. What that meant was that the emerging technology and development he foresaw has not happened. The "mullahs" whom he saw as anachronistic and a weakening force in the new Afghanistan emerged far stronger than the internationally-educated engineers and leaders.
What Michener did right however, was to paint a picture of the diverse peoples of the region. Uzbeks, Sunnis, Kochis, and Tajiks and the role of their women, wearing the chaderi, and how they interacted with the FERENGI. "Star Trek" fans will note the derivation of the alien populace characterized for their chicanery in business dealings with the Federation. The word "ferengi" is Afghan for "alien." The US State Department protagonist was a "ferengi." Had he stayed on course with the importance of religion, and its time-honored habits, he would have been less optimistic about the impending future progress in the region. He made the error of postulating his beliefs about Afghanistan to the entire Middle East. Frodo thinks Michener would be very, very disappointed at the turn of events brought on by others who also miscalculated.
Frodo, as he does often, purchased the paperback at his favorite "used bookstore." At least two others, according to handwritten notes in the margins, read the same book for similar reasons. Curious it is that people have reached out to sources they have trusted to discover truth and understanding. Perhaps it says something very poignant about how very little confidence exists in those charged with such responsibility by governments? Governments come and go, but the caravans will continue their trek through history. Now, at least, we know who the Ferengi truly are.